the Life of Zim

9th February
written by dzimney

Playing around with setting up my Linux box as a VNC client, I ran into an unexpected dilemma. Basically, when running Ubuntu 10.10 and connected through VNC using a Mac as a client, whenever you press the ‘D’ key, all windows collapse. Think it’s not a big deal? Start counting how often you press the ‘D’ key in normal typing. In fact, I initially tried running a Google search on the issue and couldn’t type the search without pressing the ‘D’ key. Anyway, really annoying problem with a really easy fix (assuming you have access to the server computer).

What’s going on.
In Ubuntu 10.10 there is a default Keyboard Shortcut for “Hide all normal windows and set focus to the desktop”. Seems like a useful shortcut. Unfortunately the default (as displayed by the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog) is set to Mod4+D. Now, I have no idea what Mod4 is. Presumably a modifier key like ‘control’ or ‘alt’. The interesting piece to this is that when logged in through VNC (using Chicken of the VNC as a client on my MacBook Pro) the modifier key must not be recognized and so is simply dropped off from the keyboard shortcut. Thus, every time you press the ‘D’ key, all of your windows collapse.

The solution.
Easy. Just open up the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog on the server machine by going to System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts, toggle the Window Management group and disable the shortcut by selecting it and pressing ‘delete’. Or change it to whatever shortcut you’d like to use.

Hope this solution helps someone some headache.

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  1. AV

    Thank you. You are a saviour.

  2. grateful

    Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. MIke D

    I started laughing at the humor in all of this. Thank you so much.

  4. Jon

    Awesome! Thanks for restoring my sanity!

  5. 21/05/2011

    Thank you so much for taking the time to document this. I thought I was losing my mind.

  6. Klaus

    Thanks for the fix! Oddly enough, opening the keyboard shortcut editor from within the VNC session shows just “D” as the shortcut, with no mention of any modifier.

  7. 07/08/2011

    Thanks fix.

  8. Rhapsody

    I think I love you now :)

  9. 05/09/2011

    I couldn’t stand it any longer. Thanks for the ‘fix’.

  10. foodie202

    Thanks, but..didn’t work. Lower-case D still minimizes all the windows. I disabled the shortcut called “Hide all normal windows and set focus to the desktop” which was set to “D”, and is now disabled. I was so hopeful!!

    Strange thing is, key combinations of D work, so shift-d, ctrl-d, etc. For grins I typed all other letters of the (English) alphabet, no issues, just lower-case d. Any ideas?

    iMac G5 PPC 10.5, Ubuntu 11.04, Chicken of the VNC 2.0b4.

  11. J-F Bohemier

    foodie202, just logout and log back in to activate the new settings. Thanks for sharing dzimney!

  12. Thomas

    Great. Worked like a charm. Has anybody reported this unfortunate choice of keyboard accelerator to Ubuntu?

  13. 13/10/2011

    No idea. I certainly haven’t.

  14. Matt

    Works, thanks!

  15. zhang3

    if ‘Del’ not works for disable it try ‘BackSpace’.

  16. 12/06/2012

    Thanks a lot.. struggled for almost 2 hours

  17. zoom

    Thanks! I couldn’t believe it when I figured out that ‘d’ was minimizing my window, this explains it and fixes it :-)
    Had to restart the vnc session but then it worked fine.

  18. Nick Crookston


    I’m on ubuntu 14.04 using VNC using the following xstartup:


    gnome-panel &
    gnome-settings-daemon &
    metacity &
    # nautilus &
    # gnome-terminal &

    #[ -x /etc/vnc/xstartup ] && exec /etc/vnc/xstartup
    #[ -r $HOME/.Xresources ] && xrdb $HOME/.Xresources
    #xsetroot -solid grey
    #vncconfig -iconic &

    —–cut above
    None of the xstartup settings I tried (not the ones from 12.04) worked. I had the same problem as stated above with the d key (and the s key). In addition “system preferences” crashes.

    My solution was to install and use dconf Editor to change keyboard settings: org > gnome > wm > keybindings …

    I removed all the bindings that use the “” modification, for example I changed the panel-main-menu setting from [‘s’,’F1′] to [‘F1′] … also removed the d keybinding.

    It is likely that there is something wrong with my install (maybe), but I don’t use these keys…so its fixed for now.

  19. Nick Crookston

    Comment above got changed by the system to remove several characters. Where I have [‘s’,’F1′] it should read [ lessthan Super greaterthan ‘s’] and so on. Why on earth a web sit like this would change what I typed?

    I removed all the bindings that use the “” modification … should read:
    I removed all the bindings that use the modification (without spaces. Perhaps it needs to be “lessthan Super greaterthan” …

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